Red Devil Cichlid – Care, Habitat, Tank Mates & Details You Need!

Red Devil Cichlid, known in the scientific community as Amphilophus labiatus, are a popular choice for aquarists due to their distinctive appearance and dynamic behavior.

The Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) is a vibrant freshwater fish known for its lively personality and strong bond with its owners. These fish aren’t just unique for their interactions; they are large and active, requiring a seasoned aquarist to handle their care.

Their name isn’t just for show; Red Devil Cichlids can be quite a challenge. They’re aggressive and notorious for their destructive tendencies, which can make them a handful for the unprepared.

In their natural habitat, these cichlids are commonly found in Nicaraguan lakes, particularly in Lake Nicaragua, Lake Managua, and Lake Xiloa. Originally classified under the genus Cichlasoma, they have since been moved to their own genus due to their distinct features.

Despite the challenges, their striking visuals and playful behavior make Red Devil Cichlids a rewarding addition to any aquarium.

If you are contemplating adding them to your aquarium, it’s crucial to understand their unique needs and care requirements.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through every detail you need to know about Red Devil Cichlid care, including their tank requirements, diet, size, and possible companions.

Quick Stats About Red Devil Cichlid

Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Aggressive
Color: Various
Lifespan: 12 years
Size: 15 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Cichlidae
Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Tank Setup: Freshwater with plants and rocks
Compatibility: Solitary

Red Devil Cichlid Appearance

The Red Devil Cichlid boasts a captivating appearance that sets it apart from other freshwater fish.

Sporting a sturdy, muscular body, this fish has pronounced dorsal and anal fins that are pointed and swept, offering speed and agility in the water.

Males and females are quite similar in appearance, with males typically having a nuchal hump on their forehead and slightly larger size.

Color variations in this species are abundant, ranging from brown or grey in the wild to white, yellow, and bright red in captivity.

Black-tipped fins and tails are also common. A distinguishing feature of the Red Devil Cichlid is its thick, rubber-like lips, which can be orange or black in color.

Inside their mouths, these fish have strong teeth and powerful jaws, making them formidable predators.

Natural Habitat of Red Devil Cichlid

In the wild, Red Devil Cichlids primarily inhabit Nicaraguan lakes, including Lake Nicaragua, Lake Managua, and Lake Xiloa.

These fish are often found near rocky crevices or other hiding spots, which provide refuge from predators and support their territorial behavior.

In their natural habitat, Red Devil Cichlids prefer to swim in moderate water movement and thrive in highly oxygenated water.

Origin and Distribution

The Red Devil Cichlid, scientifically known as Amphilophus labiatus, was originally classified under the genus Cichlasoma.

However, it has since been moved to its own genus due to its unique characteristics. This species is native to Central America, predominantly found in the lakes of Nicaragua.

Although they are predominantly wild-caught, Red Devil Cichlids are also bred in captivity, contributing to their worldwide popularity among aquarists.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Red Devil Cichlid

Red Devil Cichlids can grow to be quite large compared to other freshwater fish.

On average, they reach a length of about 15 inches when fully grown, with males generally being slightly larger than females.

Most Red Devil Cichlids attain their full length by the age of three years.

In terms of lifespan, the Red Devil Cichlid can live for 10 to 12 years in captivity, with some individuals even living longer with proper care.

Like any other fish species, their lifespan is heavily influenced by the quality of water and overall living conditions they experience.

By providing an adequately sized tank, maintaining optimal water parameters, and offering a balanced diet, aquarists can ensure the health and longevity of their Red Devil Cichlids.

In conclusion, the Red Devil Cichlid is an enthralling freshwater fish species that offers a unique blend of captivating appearance, intriguing behavior, and rewarding challenges for aquarists.

Understanding their appearance, natural habitat, origin, distribution, growth, size, and lifespan will help you provide the best possible care and environment for these charismatic creatures, ensuring they thrive in your aquarium.

Diving deeper into the world of the Red Devil Cichlid, we will explore its behavior, temperament, and elaborate on the ideal tank setup conditions.

This vibrant, lively fish is not just known for its radiant appearance but also its unique behavior and specific tank requirements.

By understanding these facets, you can offer the best possible care for your Red Devil Cichlid.

Red Devil Cichlid Behavior and Temperament

Red Devil Cichlids are well-known for their assertive, often aggressive behavior. They are highly territorial creatures that will defend their space from any perceived intruders.

This distinctive trait is particularly pronounced during breeding seasons when they become incredibly protective of their eggs and offspring.

Despite their fiery temperament, Red Devil Cichlids are also known for their intelligence and engaging behavior.

They can often be seen interacting with their environment, exploring, and even recognizing their caregivers.

Yet, due to their territorial nature, it’s important to carefully consider their tank mates, providing them with enough space to exhibit natural behavior without causing harm to others.

Tank Setup for Red Devil Cichlid

Creating an ideal home for your Red Devil Cichlid requires attention to detail and careful consideration of their natural habitat.

Let’s delve into the specific aspects of the perfect Red Devil Cichlid tank setup.

Tank Size

Given their size and territorial behavior, Red Devil Cichlids require a spacious tank. A minimum tank size of 55 gallons is recommended for a single fish.

However, if you plan to house more than one, a significantly larger tank — around 125 gallons or more — will be needed to prevent territorial disputes.


Opt for a sandy or fine-grained substrate for your Red Devil Cichlid’s tank.

These fish like to dig, and a softer substrate allows them to indulge in this behavior without risking injury.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

When decorating the tank, include plenty of hiding spots and territorial markers. These can be in the form of rocks, driftwood, and caves.

But remember, Red Devils are powerful diggers, so ensure any decor is firmly anchored to prevent accidental toppling.

Water Parameters

Red Devil Cichlids prefer warm, slightly acidic to neutral water, much like their natural habitat.

Maintain a water temperature between 75-79°F, pH levels from 6.5-7.5, and a water hardness between 6-25 dH.

Filtration and Aeration

These fish require clean water to thrive. A robust filtration system is necessary to remove waste, uneaten food, and toxins.

Additionally, an air pump can be used to increase oxygen levels, mimicking the highly oxygenated waters of their natural habitat.


Moderate lighting is ideal for Red Devil Cichlids. Too bright lighting may stress the fish, while insufficient lighting can inhibit their active behavior.

Adjustable aquarium lights can help maintain the right balance.

Tank Mates

Choosing tank mates for the Red Devil Cichlid can be a challenge due to their aggressive nature.

They are best kept with other large, robust fish that can stand their ground, but not overly aggressive to provoke fights.

It’s crucial to monitor their interactions and intervene if necessary.


Red Devil Cichlids are omnivorous, requiring a balanced diet of both plant and animal matter.

High-quality pellets or flakes can serve as the staple diet, supplemented with live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods like shrimps, worms, and vegetables.

Maintaining the perfect environment for your Red Devil Cichlid is crucial for its health and happiness.

Careful tank maintenance ensures that your fish thrives in clean, comfortable surroundings.

Let’s dive into the specifics of tank maintenance, ranging from regular water changes to monitoring your Red Devil Cichlid’s health.

Tank Maintenance of Red Devil Cichlid

Red Devil Cichlids, like all fish, thrive in clean and stable environments.

Maintaining their tank involves several routine practices, including regular water changes, cleaning, and filter maintenance.

Furthermore, constant monitoring of fish health is key to catching any potential problems early on.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are essential to maintaining the health of your Red Devil Cichlid.

Over time, waste products and uneaten food can accumulate in the tank, leading to a buildup of harmful substances.

By replacing 25-30% of the tank’s water weekly, you can effectively dilute these harmful substances and keep the water conditions optimal.

Use a siphon to remove old water and vacuum the substrate to remove accumulated debris.

Remember to treat the new water to remove harmful chlorine before adding it to the tank.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Aside from changing the water, cleaning the tank and its decorations is crucial.

Algae can accumulate on the glass and decor, which can negatively impact the water quality.

Use an algae scraper or pad to clean the tank walls. Decorations and artificial plants can be removed and scrubbed with a soft brush under warm water.

Avoid using soap or detergents as these can leave harmful residues.

Filter Maintenance

Your tank’s filtration system is a vital component of your Red Devil Cichlid’s health.

Over time, filters can become clogged with debris, reducing their efficiency.

Regularly check your filter for clogs and clean it following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remember, some beneficial bacteria live in the filter media, so rinse it in tank water rather than tap water to preserve these bacteria.

It’s also recommended to replace the filter media as needed based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Monitor Fish Health

Monitoring your Red Devil Cichlid’s health is an ongoing task. Watch for changes in behavior, feeding habits, or appearance, which could indicate health issues.

If you notice anything unusual, it may be necessary to consult a vet or an aquatic specialist.

Healthy Red Devil Cichlids should be active, with bright colors and clear eyes.

They should show interest in food and exhibit their usual levels of aggression and territorial behavior.

In conclusion, maintaining a clean and stable tank environment for your Red Devil Cichlid is a commitment, but it is undoubtedly rewarding.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your Red Devil Cichlid thrives, contributing to the vibrant, lively atmosphere within your home aquarium.

Acclimating Red Devil Cichlid

When you first bring your Red Devil Cichlid home, it’s important to acclimate them to their new environment slowly and carefully.

The goal here is to gradually introduce them to the water parameters of your tank to minimize stress.

Start by leaving the fish in the bag you brought them home in and floating this bag in your aquarium.

This allows the temperature in the bag to slowly match that of your aquarium, a process that should take around 15 minutes.

Once the temperatures are equal, slowly introduce small amounts of tank water into the bag. Repeat this every 10 minutes for about an hour.

This process allows your Red Devil Cichlid to gradually adjust to the pH and hardness of your aquarium water.

After an hour, use a net to gently transfer the Red Devil Cichlid into the tank.

Avoid pouring water from the bag into your aquarium to prevent potential contamination.

Red Devil Cichlid Diet and Feeding

Red Devil Cichlids are omnivorous, which means they enjoy a varied diet.

Here’s a detailed look at their dietary needs and feeding routines.

Varied Diet

Offer a mix of commercial and natural foods for a balanced diet.

These can include:

  • Commercial Foods: High-quality pellet or flake foods should make up the bulk of your Red Devil Cichlid’s diet. These are specially formulated to provide all the essential nutrients your fish needs.

  • Vegetables: Red Devil Cichlids appreciate blanched peas, spinach, or zucchini. These provide valuable fiber and vitamins.

  • Protein: Occasionally, offer live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, or earthworms. These provide essential proteins and make for an exciting change of pace for your fish.

Feeding Routine

Feed your Red Devil Cichlid 1-2 times daily. Each feeding session should last as long as your fish can consume the food within 2-3 minutes.

This routine prevents overfeeding and maintains water quality by minimizing waste.

Monitor Feeding

Watch your Red Devil Cichlid as it eats. This helps you adjust the quantity of food and identify any potential health issues early.

If your fish stops eating or shows changes in its eating habits, it could be a sign of stress or illness.

Red Devil Cichlid Tank Mates

The Red Devil Cichlid’s assertive nature makes it a challenge to find suitable tank mates.

Here are some potential companions that are known to cohabitate well with this species:

  1. Oscar Fish: Their similar size and temperament make them a good match.

  2. Green Terror Cichlids: Another robust species that can hold their own.

  3. Jaguar Cichlids: They share similar water conditions and aggressive nature.

  4. Plecostomus: Hardy and capable of surviving with more aggressive fish.

  5. Convict Cichlids: Their resilience makes them a decent choice.

  6. Firemouth Cichlids: These cichlids can handle themselves well in the presence of Red Devils.

  7. Texas Cichlids: They are equally aggressive and prefer similar habitats.

  8. Jack Dempsey Fish: Known for their toughness, they can stand their ground.

When considering tank mates, remember that each fish is unique.

Monitor their interactions closely to ensure a peaceful cohabitation.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Equally important to know are the species that don’t mix well with Red Devil Cichlids.

These include:

  1. Neon Tetras: Their small size makes them easy targets.

  2. Angelfish: Too peaceful to cope with the Red Devil Cichlid’s aggression.

  3. Discus Fish: They prefer calm, serene environments.

  4. Guppies: Their bright colors and smaller size may attract unwanted attention.

  5. Goldfish: They can’t handle the aggressiveness of the Red Devil Cichlid.

Breeding Red Devil Cichlid and Fry Care

When it comes to breeding Red Devil Cichlids, creating the right environment is essential.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the process:

Setting Up the Breeding Environment

Provide a spacious tank with plenty of hiding spots. Flat rocks and sandy substrate are ideal for egg-laying.

Maintain water parameters similar to their natural habitat (pH 6.5 to 7.5, temperature 75 to 79°F).

Mating and Egg-Laying

Once a pair forms, they will choose a flat surface for egg-laying.

The female can lay up to 1000 eggs, which both parents guard fiercely.

Fry Care

After hatching, the fry stay in a pit dug by the parents. The parents will guard the fry diligently, moving them around as needed for safety.

Feed the fry infusoria or powdered fry food until they are large enough to consume brine shrimp nauplii. Maintain excellent water quality to ensure the health and survival of the fry.

Breeding Red Devil Cichlids is a rewarding experience, watching these dedicated parents care for their young is a truly remarkable spectacle.

By carefully selecting compatible tank mates and following appropriate breeding practices, you can cultivate a lively, vibrant, and harmonious home for your Red Devil Cichlid.

Signs of Stress in Red Devil Cichlid

The Red Devil Cichlid, with its outgoing personality, can display noticeable signs of stress when their needs aren’t adequately met.

These symptoms could include:

  1. Loss of Appetite: Red Devil Cichlids are known for their hearty appetites. A sudden disinterest in food can be a clear stress signal.

  2. Color Fading: A healthy Red Devil Cichlid sports vibrant hues. If you notice a dulling or fading of color, it might be an indication of stress.

  3. Erratic Swimming: This species is known for their confident swimming. If they start to swim erratically or hide frequently, they could be experiencing stress.

  4. Rapid Breathing: Normal breathing patterns might be disrupted when the fish is under stress.

  5. Physical Signs: Look out for spots, sores, or growths, which can be signs of stress-induced diseases.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Red Devil Cichlids

Red Devil Cichlids, while resilient, can suffer from a few health issues:

  1. Ich: Characterized by white spots on the body, it’s one of the most common fish diseases. Treat it by gradually increasing the tank temperature and using over-the-counter medications.

  2. Fin Rot: This bacterial infection causes frayed or decaying fins. Antibiotics such as tetracycline or erythromycin can treat this ailment.

  3. Bacterial Infections: These can lead to ulcers, dropsy, or pop-eye. A broad-spectrum antibiotic can help combat these infections.

  4. Parasitic Infections: These may cause a range of symptoms from weight loss to rapid breathing. Anti-parasitic medications can help resolve these issues.

Always consult with a vet or a fish health professional before administering any treatment.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy aquarium is not just about addressing problems as they arise, but also about preventing them:

  1. Regular Water Changes: Keep the water clean and toxin-free.

  2. Balanced Diet: Provide a varied diet to ensure your fish gets all necessary nutrients.

  3. Monitor Water Parameters: Maintain the pH, temperature, and hardness within the ideal range.

  4. Provide Enough Space: Red Devil Cichlids need a spacious environment. Overcrowding can lead to stress and aggression.

Should You Get a Red Devil Cichlids for Your Aquarium?

Red Devil Cichlids can make fascinating additions to your aquarium with their lively personalities and brilliant colors. However, they do require a bit more care than your average fish.

If you’re willing to put in the effort to meet their needs, have a large enough aquarium, and don’t mind their aggressive nature, then this fish can be an excellent choice for you.

It’s a commitment, but the reward is a stunning, entertaining fish that’s full of personality.

Remember, the key to a thriving aquarium is understanding and catering to the needs of its inhabitants.

With careful observation and maintenance, you can ensure your Red Devil Cichlid thrives.

Conservation Status

The Red Devil Cichlid, scientifically known as Amphilophus labiatus, does not appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, indicating that they are not currently at risk of extinction.

They are common in their native habitats of Central America, specifically in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and are also thriving in the aquarium trade worldwide.

However, any changes to their habitats could potentially affect their numbers. As always, it’s essential to support ethical breeding and trading practices for any species.

Availability & Pricing

Red Devil Cichlids are quite popular among aquarists, which makes them relatively easy to find.

They are commonly available in local pet stores and online fish retailers. Availability can fluctuate based on your location and the time of year.

When it comes to cost, the price of a Red Devil Cichlid can vary based on factors such as size, color, and the seller’s location.

Typically, you can expect to pay between $10 to $30 for a juvenile. Mature or particularly vibrant specimens might cost more.

Remember, the initial cost of the fish is just one aspect. You must also consider the ongoing expenses, like a suitable tank, food, water conditioners, and potential vet bills.

Frequently Asked Questions About Red Devil Cichlid

1. How large can a Red Devil Cichlid get?

Red Devil Cichlids can grow quite large. In an adequately sized tank, they can reach up to 15 inches in length.

2. Are Red Devil Cichlids aggressive?

Yes, they are known for their territorial and aggressive behavior, especially during breeding.

3. Can Red Devil Cichlids live with other fish?

While it’s possible under specific conditions, generally, it’s best to keep them either alone or with other large, robust species that can handle their aggressive tendencies.

4. What do Red Devil Cichlids eat?

They are omnivores and can eat a variety of foods, including pellets, frozen or live foods, and plant matter.


The Red Devil Cichlid, with its striking appearance and dynamic personality, can be a captivating addition to your aquarium.

However, they require a commitment to their specific care needs and can present challenges due to their size and temperament.

If you’re an aquarist who’s up for the task, the Red Devil Cichlid can provide an incredibly rewarding experience.

Just remember, as with any pet, ownership comes with the responsibility of ensuring their well-being and promoting ethical conservation practices.

With this comprehensive guide in hand, you’re well on your way to becoming a skilled Red Devil Cichlid owner, ready to provide a healthy and enriching environment for these stunning creatures.

Happy fish-keeping!